News Release

CNMI Governor Office Washington, D.C. March 1, 2011


As part of the ongoing proceedings of the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) governor, Benigno R. Fitial, joined his colleagues who comprise the Western Governors Association (WGA) in ancillary meetings this morning. WGA Chairman and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter convened the meeting with the other governors from the western states and territories. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar served as the guest speakers and panelists.

Much of the discussion initiated by Vilsack and Salazar centered on energy efficiency, the Great American Outdoors report, and the new Forest Planning Rule. The governors in attendance sought the assistance of the executive branch for greater inclusion in the formulation process of regulations that get implemented at the national level.

For his part, Fitial directed the concerns of the commonwealth to Salazar regarding the stalls in economic development due in part by the provisions of the Endangered Species Act, or ESA. The law requires federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service, to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species.

The governor raised the need to consider the unique needs of the commonwealth and the rest of the territories. He pointed out that the provision of the ESA has not only stalled economic development, but it has driven away potential investors and has incapacitated the local government’s ability to expeditiously complete infrastructure projects.

"On behalf of the people of the CNMI, I humbly seek your assistance in either having the ESA amended or initiating efforts in the translocation of such protected species to the uninhabited northern islands," said Fitial. "We all share the common obligation to seek prosperity for our people."

Salazar admitted that he was not aware of these setback brought about by the ESA, but pledged to look into this matter so his department can be better equipped to address the issue.

Fitial also thanked Salazar for Interior’s support to jumpstart geothermal energy efforts in the islands. In response to this, Salazar lauded the CNMI for its harmonious working relationship with Interior and, in particular, the Office of Insular Affairs.

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